After a weekend during which a new Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff was appointed, President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. has asked retired General Carlito Galvez Jr. to serve as secretary of national defense. These twin moves serve to restore a sense of equanimity in the security sector.
General Galvez is currently a Cabinet member as Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity, a position he has occupied since the Duterte administration. He also served as overall coordinator of the national Covid-19 vaccination campaign.
Most importantly, he has served as AFP Chief of Staff and commanding general of the AFP Western Mindanao Command during which he directed the operations to end the siege of Marawi City in 2017.
His previous experience prepared him well for his Cabinet portfolio as presidential adviser on the peace process. As a field general, he became acquainted with the local leaders who were influential in conflict areas where the government sought to implement social amelioration and economic development initiatives. After he joined the Duterte Cabinet, he led the campaign for the eventual ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law.
He was a recipient of the prestigious Eisenhower Fellowship and has participated in the Asian Institute of Management’s Bridging Leadership Program. He has also been recognized as one of The Outstanding Philippine Soldiers by the Metrobank Foundation.
These developments in the DND came amid rumors of destabilization following the return of General Andres Centino as AFP chief of staff — which both the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP) denied. As this developed, the Philippine Army (PA), the Philippine Navy (PN), and the Philippine Air Force (PAF) expressed solidarity with Centino. They affirmed their commitment to professionalism in the aftermath of the change of leadership that saw Medal of Valor awardee, Lt. Gen. Bartolome Vicente Bacarro, being replaced at the top AFP post after serving for only five months.
The position of secretary of national defense is one of the most important appointments of the President who is also the commander-in-chief of the country’s armed forces. The Department of National Defense supervises the three major service commands consisting of the army, navy and air force with nearly 150,000 officers and enlisted personnel.
Noteworthy is the fact that in the two previous administrations of President Benigno S Aquino III and President Rodrigo Duterte, both of these Commanders-in-Chief were served by a single secretary of national defense for the entire duration of their stewardship. Voltaire Gazmin, who retired as Philippine Army commanding general, served with President Aquino from 2010 to 2016. Delfin Lorenzana, who served previously as military attaché in Washington, DC served with President Duterte from 2016 to 2022.
The DND’s mandate is “to maximize its effectiveness in guarding against external and internal threats to national peace and security, promoting the welfare of soldiers and veterans, and providing support for social and economic development.”
The citizenry expects that the leadership of the organizations responsible for ensuring the security and stability of the state is in good hands.